Strategies to Minimize Cheating Online

When giving an exam online, how can you be sure a student is actually doing their own work? What is the most secure way to handle online examinations? While there are no magic answers to these questions, there are many strategies an instructor can use to accurately assess student performance online and minimize a student’s temptation to cheat. Consider these options:

  1. First, many of the same problems regarding the authenticity of a student’s work and plagiarism exist in the traditional classroom as well. To get someone’s help through an entire online program would take substantial effort. For most students it is just not possible to have consistent help through many tests at many different times. Besides, who would consent to putting in so much work for someone else and not get credit for it?
  2. Use a log-in/password system (but of course, a student could just give the username and password to someone else).
  3. Make exercises difficult enough so that the person who hasn’t done the previous work in your course will not be able to complete the assignment.
  4. Give many short exams that are embedded in class exercises so that it would be difficult for a student to have “help” there all the time.
  5. Ask mastery-type questions so that a student must know the material himself/herself in order to answer the question (i.e. case studies Vs memorization questions).
  6. Ask students to relate the subject matter to their own personal/professional/life experiences so their answers are personalized and difficult to replicate.
  7. Require students to submit an outline and rough draft of term papers and essays before the final paper is due. This way, a professor can see the work in progress.
  8. Give different questions to different students – construct a large set of questions from which an automated testing program can randomly select (i.e. a database of 50 questions with 10 randomly chosen).
  9. Limit the times when the online test is available; ensure that the test is taken in a certain amount of time. Some automated testing programs allow this feature.
  10. Provide online exam practice – sample questions, self-study questions with answers and feedback, and require a proctored, non-online examination for course credit (i.e. on campus, at a testing center, library, etc.)
  11. Finally, remember that testing should never be the only means by which you assess the abilities of your students. If they are evaluated with various different methods, you have the best way of ensuing that there is real learning taking place.